Travel and Booking APIs for Online Travel and Tourism Service Providers
Back in 2017, TripAdvisor and comScore suggested that travelers make 10 to 34 website visits on average to book their trips. While this seems like a lot for booking hotels, for instance, travelers visit only 4.4 unique websites, according to the study by Fuel and Flip.to. People prefer to make their reservations through ‘all-in-one-place’ platforms. They’ve reshaped user experience unifying and eventually simplifying it for average travelers.
One of the reasons is that travel industry players have become a lot more open to sharing data with each other. A good example of this is Uber which in 2014 allowed third parties to incorporate Ride Requests functionality in their applications. Today, your local sightseeing app can let users commute from one landmark to another without switching apps.
Travel APIs: main types and how they work
In tech terminology, the key to this growing connectivity is an API. An application programming interface allows for sharing data streams and functionalities between different systems. APIs work as control panels for developers to link software components without dealing with source code.
API principles explained.
What does this mean for the travel industry? If you run a hotel business, you can let your customers rent a car straight from your website by integrating your booking website with available local car rental services. This may put a car-rental commission in your pocket or just spare your customers the trouble of browsing the web to rent a car.
So, let’s talk about the most important types of APIs used to unify travel industry features and information. Warning, it’s going to be a long read, so you may hop to one of the 13 sections that seem interesting by navigating the menu to the right if you’re on a desktop:
- Flight search and booking by GDSs and OTAs
- NDC integration for merchandising and rich content
- Flight data, schedules, and fares
- Direct hotel booking with PMSs and channel managers
- Hotel booking with aggregators: GDSs, connectivity providers, and switches
- Wholesale hotel booking with bed banks
- Partner hotel booking with OTAs
- Hotel mapping
- Car rental booking
- Business travel management and expense tracking
- Reviews and ratings
- Tours, attractions, and experiences
- Public transportation
Rail booking APIs aren’t included here but don’t despair, we do have a separate article for them.
Flight search and booking APIs by GDSs and OTAs
Main users: OTAs, TMCs, travel application providers
There are generally two main types of players that can help you with travel search, availability, and booking. The first one includes global distribution systems (GDSs), the main aggregators in the industry. They go together with “aggregators of aggregators,” the systems that are built on top of GDSs to merge their offers. The second group consists of online travel agencies that have affiliate programs to help smaller players enter the market. To learn more about flight distribution, check our video:
Flight distribution in a nutshell (by the way, subscribe to our channel. We’ll be releasing more such explainer videos)
Global distribution systems (GDSs) and flight aggregators. The main data source and reservation point of contact for online travel agencies are global distribution systems (GDSs). A GDS collects and consolidates travel data from a wide spectrum of service providers and allows agents to reserve airplane seats, rent cars, book hotel rooms, cruises, railway tickets, etc. This way travel agencies don’t have to directly connect with hundreds of airlines, hotels, and other end providers. They also provide APIs to integrate reservation support into OTA booking engines to let travelers book online.
Basically, there are three main GDS players on the market: Amadeus, Sabre, and Travelport. According to Sabre, these three cover 99.9 percent of the GDS market share.
GDS market shares differ across regions
As a travel agency or any other travel business, you can use one of the GDS APIs or more to achieve broader coverage. Our client, online travel agency Fareboom, which provides its customers with a low-airfare search, uses multiple GDSs and private airfares from airlines directly. However, if your business model doesn’t revolve around the lowest fares, you may stick with using only GDS, not bothering to engage airlines directly. Amadeus, for example, claims to cover 95 percent of the global scheduled air seating.
NB: It’s interesting to note that a GDS reservation capacity isn’t necessarily equal to that supported in APIs. GDSs can be operated manually by travel agents that make reservations for their clients. APIs, on the other hand, exist to automate booking, excluding efforts from the agent. Sometimes a GDS would provide broader services for manual booking compared to the API-based one. We’ll mention one such limitation in a bit.
Depending on the APIs you are going to use, you may consider their industry coverage
Going to a GDS or other aggregator usually allows you to book flights. But in order to ticket them and complete a reservation, you must either be IATA or ARC accredited. The other option is to negotiate with consolidators or host travel agencies who will ticket flights for you. Read more on non-accreditation ticketing options in the article that we wrote together with Amadeus.
Online travel agencies. If GDSs and aggregators are too pricey for you, start off by partnering with other travel agencies that offer affiliate programs and APIs. While this way isn’t as common as GDSs, it’s a viable option for small businesses, startups, or enthusiasts who need access to flight booking APIs.
So, who are some of the main players here?
Amadeus flight APIs
Amadeus is one of the major GDSs and originates from Europe. In November 2018, the company launched a new portal Amadeus for Developers with sets of air, hotel, and other travel APIs. (We use the word “sets” because there’s no single API for all data services available.) In this section, we’ll focus on flight APIs.
Fran Romero, Head of Open Innovation Programs at Amadeus, made comments to AltexSoft about the platform: “The Amadeus for Developers is designed to speed up innovation and to inspire new ideas by empowering those at the forefront of travel, offering quick and easy access to travel APIs, and fostering collaboration across the community of developers. Through the portal, developers can take advantage of Amadeus APIs alongside the tools, resources, and support they need to build and launch their applications quickly.”
Currently, Amadeus APIs are shipped in two flavors.
Self-Service APIs meet the needs of startups and travel businesses with no IATA or ARC certification. These APIs use JSON format for data exchange and modern REST architecture which makes them easy to integrate. As Alvaro Navarro, a Developer Advocate at Amadeus, notes, “The Self-Service APIs are designed to be used not only for prototyping, but also for commercial purposes, and the access to production is fully automated with self-service processes.” The suite allows you to
- search and compare flights and fares (including lowest fares, most booked destinations, cheapest dates, and so on);
- book flights; and
- analyze flight prices, predict arrival and departure delays, and more (AI-based services)
However, ticketing can only be done through consolidators, and you don’t get access to negotiated or corporate fares. Self-service APIs support only public fares.
Enterprise APIs target mature businesses building large travel applications. The Enterprise subscription connects you to nearly 200 APIs, including
- new REST APIs from the Self-Service suite; and
- older SOAP APIs that rely on the XML data format and provide broader functionality. For example, only this catalog gives you access to flights operated by low-cost airlines.
Learn more about the subject from our Practice Guide to Amadeus API Integration.
Sabre flight APIs
Sabre is another major GDS and the pioneer in the world of automated booking. There are literally hundreds of Sabre APIs in REST and SOAP formats that cover pretty much the same set of functions that Amadeus provides. In terms of flight distribution, Sabre offers:
- flight search, including alternate dates or airports, basic fares, rules, etc.;
- flight booking and ticketing;
- payments and pricing;
- reservation management (itineraries, PNRs, etc.)
- seat maps; and
- reporting and data analytics (e.g., top destinations, low fare history, and others)
If you’re considering Sabre API integration, you can contact us. In September 2020, AltexSoft became Sabre’s authorized development partner after we had completed a number of integrations for agencies and other businesses.
Read our article Sabre API Integration: Hands-On Experience with a Leading GDS to dive deeper into details.
Travelport flight APIs
Travelport unites three GDS systems: Apollo, Worldspan, and Galileo. Unlike Amadeus and Sabre, it provides a single point of access to the inventory of the three GDSs that preserve their brand names. Travelport Universal API uses SOAP/XML formats and embraces
- air shopping and booking;
- fares and ancillaries;
- air content and merchandising; and
- seat maps.
Travelport also offers RESTful JSON API collections that generally overlap with the Universal API, but are more lightweight, faster, and optimized for mobile search and booking. In terms of flight services, they cover
- air search and booking,
- ticketing, and
- payment support.
If you want to dive deeper into the difference between GDSs, read our dedicated GDS article.
Besides GDSs, you can try working with other aggregators.
- Direct Connect XML API that ensures real-time availability and a fully automated booking process; and
- Fast API, a new and lightweight product for rapid integration with any platform and creating a wide range of solutions, including widgets and mobile services.
Flight search and booking functionality can be also provided in JSON format. Besides that, Travelfusion actively supports the IATA NDC initiative.
Kiwi.com is a Czech OTA known for its powerful flight search engine that connects to about 750 airlines, including over 250 low-cost carriers. The platform also provides virtual interlining services — in other words, it combines separate flights into seamless itineraries.
After registration, you can use their set of APIs to
- find carrier IDs and logos;
- acquire data on locations (cities, airports, and more);
- search for itineraries — one-way and return flights, multiple city trips, and the cheapest routes possible (NOMAD feature);
- book flights and order baggage; and
- confirm payments and process refunds.
Besides that, KIwi.com APIs allow you to connect air and ground routes making train and bus transfers to and from an airport a part of the itinerary.
FlightsLogic Flight API
FlightsLogic Flight API provides flight data, seat availability, fares, and payment features. It connects travel agencies, tour operators, B2B travel platforms, and other businesses to over 200 low-cost carriers and over 700 GDS airlines. The API can be integrated with Android and iOS apps and websites.
NDC integration for merchandising and rich content
Main users: OTAs aiming at distributing rich content, larger OTAs, innovative travel application providers
Read more here: NDC connections and APIs
Besides traditional flight booking, there’s a growing trend of flight merchandising advanced by airlines and IATA.New Distribution Capability (NDC) standard based on XML allows carriers to offer rich content (images, reviews, seat maps, etc.), a broader set of ancillaries, and personalization — things that were limited in GDS-centered distribution.
Initially, NDC was considered the way to bypass GDSs entirely and build carriers’ own APIs to directly connect to OTAs and TMCs (travel management companies). But things have changed and today there are three main ways to use NDC, including connections implemented by GDSs.
GDSs NDC. Unsurprisingly, global distribution systems aren’t excited about losing their market. While it’s hard to find actual NDC API documentation, you may directly contact Amadeus, Sabre, and Travelport for NDC connection purposes. In most cases, NDC capabilities aimed at travel agencies and other resellers are in development, while GDSs focus more on helping airlines build NDC pipelines on their sides. We elaborate on how to implement NDC technology for airlines in our dedicated article.
NDC by tech providers. A number of the industry’s leading technology companies like ATPCO, SITA, and Farelogix which we’ll talk about below have worked with airlines to build NDC APIs for them.
Now, let’s reference some key APIs you can try for NDC.
Amadeus provides NDC capabilities in their Enterprise subscription, via XML/SOAP APIs. Upon establishing this integration, you’ll be able to:
- search for NDC flight offers and combine them with non-NDC content;
- get prices and enable users to customize flights;
- create bookings (orders) and generate booking references (PNRs); and
- handle payments and ticket issuance.
Currently, you can search for and book rich content from American Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Air France-KLM, and Qantas (the last is still in piloting mode.) More carriers are to be added soon — including British Airways, Iberia, United Airlines, LOT Polish Airlines, and Cathay Pacific. Note that some carriers require separate seller agreements to deliver NDC offers.
Sabre provides NDC connectivity via Offer and Order APIs. Yet, to use them you need special credentials, so contact your Sabre Account Representative for assistance. Once you gain access to NDC-enabled APIs, you’ll be able to
- shop for airline NDC and non-NDC air offers (including LCC flights), hotels, and car rentals;
- validate prices;
- create, view, change, fulfill and cancel orders (the API doesn’t support ancillaries though); and
- refund tickets where fare rules allow for this.
Depending on a specific airline, you can get rich content and personalized bundles. While carriers push their offers in XML – which is what NDC requires – Sabre provides the REST/JSON interface for using them.
Keep in mind that NDC-enabled APIs are in development and as of this writing they only work with rich content from Avianca Group, Qatar Airways, Qantas, Singapore Airlines, and United Airlines. The NDC connection with American Airlines is expected to go live in April 2023.
Travelport made NDC content accessible via their Air APIs, in addition to standard GDS offers.
Currently, only four carriers have NDC integrations with the GDS — namely, American Airlines, Qantas, Singapore Airlines, and United Airlines. To shop and book NDC offers, you have to negotiate this type of connection with both Travelport and the airline itself. The NDC will empower you to
- shop for different air products including branded fares (net fares are accessible via GDS connection only) and ancillaries (paid bags, carbon offset, etc.);
- confirm pricing for air search results (required for LCCs and some NDC carriers);
- retrieve frequent flyer details (available for Qantas only),
- reserve paid seats during the initial booking session;
- create reservations and issue tickets during the initial booking session;
- modify a passenger name (for American Airlines only) and itinerary; and
- void, cancel, exchange, and refund tickets.
NDC APIs here support both XML and JSON formats being also RESTful.
ATPCO Routehappy content and NDC
Routehappy APIs offer content for sales channels. These JSON APIs provide information about amenities and distribute product and ticket attributes from 300 airlines. Some of this data comes via NDC channels. All Routehappy content can be divided into three groups:
- UPAs (Universal Product Attributes) — images, cabin descriptions, seat infographics, language translations, etc.;
- Amenities — food and beverages, Wi-Fi, seatback videos, power outlets, etc.; and
- UTAs (Universal Ticket Attributes) — all ticket rules, including consolation allowances, upgrades, priority check-in, etc.
tfFlight API by TravelFusion
tfFlight API is a one-stop solution for booking flights and ancillaries from LCCs, full-service carriers, and consolidators. It claims access to all low-cost airlines currently existing. The API supports NDC, sourcing rich content from 42 carriers.
Duffel Flights API
Duffel is a London-based startup that links travel distributors to over 300 carriers via a unified Flights API. It maintains direct connections with nearly 30 carriers, while all others are accessible through Travelport GDS. The company promises the easiest and fastest integration process possible, with almost instant access to functionality needed for selling flights. Besides search and booking, the API enables you to
- add extra and post-booking baggage,
- pick seats (yet, this function is available not for all airlines),
- change and cancel orders,
- collect card payments,
- add loyalty program accounts, and
- request private fares.
The API works with LCCs, GDS, and NDC content.
Verteil is an NDC aggregator dedicated to replacing legacy airline distribution scenarios with direct bookings. Its unified API connects travel agencies to rich content from 33 airlines. Though capabilities may differ from carrier to carrier depending on their NDC readiness, the standard set of available features includes:
- shopping for flights, branded fares, and ancillaries (seats, meals, baggage, and more);
- support for frequent flyer programs,
- multi-payment options (credit cards, Verteil wallet, PayPal, and so on);
- Book Now, Pay Later scenario;
- automated itinerary modification, ticket re-issuance and cancellation, and void and refund workflow.
Note that travel agencies will automatically get access to inventory from all new airlines onboarded.
HitchHiker Flight API
The HitchHiker API distributes flight fares and ancillaries from 6 GDSs and 20 NDC airlines and connects directly to 120 airlines, including low-cost carriers. Besides ancillaries and fares, it allows for flight booking, reservation management, and payment. The API is also available as a SaaS solution.
Accelya (ex-Farelogix) NDC
Accelya is a leading provider of financial and analytics services in the airline sector. For example, it developed and maintains BSPlink, the interface that allows travel agencies and carriers to access the IATA billing system — Billing and Settlement Plan (BSP.) In 2020, the company expanded its portfolio through the acquisition of Farelogix — a tech company pioneering NDC. Their FLX NDC API serves as a single gateway enabling airlines to distribute rich content across different sales channels.
Currently, the API fuels the FLX Passenger Platform that spans the entire cycle of air merchandising and attracts over 25 percent of the world’s NDC traffic. It serves about 20 NDC-powered airlines — including Lufthansa Group, United Airlines, American Airlines, Emirates, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways, LATAM, WestJet, Air Canada, Olympic Air, and Aegean Airlines.
Duffel Flights API
Duffel is a London-based startup that links travel distributors to over carriers via a unified Flights API. It supports GDS and LCC content as well as NDC offers from 25 airlines.
The company promises the easiest and fastest integration process possible, with almost instant access to functionality needed for selling flights. Besides search and booking, the API will enable you to
- add extra and post-booking baggage,
- pick seats,
- change and cancel orders,
- collect card payments,
- add loyalty program accounts, and
- request private fares.
Yet, some features are still under development and not available for all airlines. The API maintains direct connections with 30 carriers, while all others are accessible through Travelport GDS.
Flight data, schedules, and fares APIs
Main users: OTAs, TMCs, data science, and analytics groups working in the travel industry
Read more here: Flight and air booking APIs
Some OTAs and travel application providers strive to help travelers after the booking is completed. For instance, the in-flight support app that we developed for Fareboom helps travelers with timely notifications before a departure, tracks flight status, and alerts about delays. Others attract customers with additional features such as flight price predictors. To deliver such services, you have to retrieve in-depth details about schedules, connections, fares, weather, and more.
So, the final group of air travel-related APIs embraces connectivity options that help gather technical and specific flight data. For instance, Cirium (now owns Innovata and FlightStats) and OAG are global sources of flight scheduling data. And ATPCO is the main provider of fares, as airlines submit them directly to ATPCO, which in turn offers this data to GDSs and OTAs.
Most of this information comes from the key technical players on the market. But let’s also mention one fare aggregator (or metasearch engine) — Skyscanner.
GDSs send general flight data, while Skyscanner provides more precise fare returns for a lower cost. To use Skyscanner API you need to enroll in an affiliate program. If you pass the vetting process, you get access to a set of APIs for free. Once you reach a certain revenue threshold, the service allows you to negotiate a commission based on your traffic and market proportion.
While Skyscanner also provides car rental and hotel APIs, its strong point is its flight fare search. It comes in two main versions.
Browse Flight Prices. This set ships the cheapest quotes from cached prices for an aggregated variety of origin-destination and time-frame queries, meaning that you can set up a flex search. The drawback is the cache doesn’t update frequently for less popular route and date combinations. If the prices change, sometimes your users won’t be able to see fresh info.
Live Flight Prices. The live pricing API, on the other hand, returns exact fares for any given moment. But you must query the exact time and route to retrieve prices. This feature comes in handy whenever you need to compare prices for specific dates and routes.
The default response format in both cases is XML, but you can switch to JSON.
Cirium and FlightStats APIs
Another popular API in this segment is provided by FlightStats, a global flight tracker and travel applications provider owned by Cirium. FlightStats APIs combine two main products.
FlightStats Flex APIs. This suite allows you to get actual and precise flight data in English, German, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Arabic, Japanese, and Simplified Chinese. The set includes
- Flight Status and Track API providing detailed information on a flight’s schedule, delays, gates and terminals, real-time position, speed, and more;
- Historical Flight Status API delivering historical data on departure/arrival times, delay calculations, equipment type, etc.;
- Schedules API with information on upcoming flights;
- Connections API returning direct and connecting flights between two airports;
- Airlines API for important details about carriers — such as IATA/ICAO codes and current status;
- Airports API for IATA/ICAO codes, addresses, locations, time zones, and other data on airports;
- Equipment API enabling you to search for information on aircraft equipment;
- Alerts API to send notifications triggered by flight status and other changes;
- Delay Index API reporting on the current delay level in a specific airport;
- Ratings API to define which flights are more likely to be on-time between given airports;
- Weather API focusing on current weather conditions; and
- FIDS API returning data necessary for flight information display system (FIDS) located in airport terminals, hotel lobbies, and other places.
APIs follow the REST design, supporting JSON, JSONP, and XML formats as well as SOAP protocol.
FlightStats Trips APIs. This set focuses on the ability of travel providers to improve the itinerary experience of their customers by keeping them informed about their trips. These include alerts about important changes, especially delays, cancellations, and other travel disruptions to enable proactive reactions to these events.
FlightStats APIs are known in the development community as well-documented and coherent. They allow for deep customization to tailor travel software to specific business and UX needs.
OAG is another major player in the flight schedules market. It currently has four REST APIs:
- Flight Info returns schedules and granular status data showing all changes during the flight;
- Schedules enable near real-time access to data on schedules;
- Flight Info Alerts provides near real-time scheduling changes; and
- Flight Info Connections returns weekly updates on passenger and cargo flight connections.
OAG content covers 97 percent of flights worldwide, and its APIs power such innovative products as Uber Reserve (a tool for pre-booking a ride up to 30 days in advance), Air Black Box (a virtual interlining engine), and Global Pilot Source (a recruitment platform connecting pilots and airlines.)
SITA is one of the major flight market technology providers that offers a decent set of APIs that mostly revolve around airport, baggage, and boarding information. Via SITA APIs, you can get timely information on
- airports (location, IATA/ICAO codes),
- flights (including real-time data),
- weather at a particular airport; and
- the average waiting time in a specific area of the airport (customs queue or security line).
SITA Flex APIs allow you to create mobile apps interacting with Self Baggage Drop Devices, Self Boarding Gates, scanners, and other airport technologies. Boarding Pass API streamlines the creation and distribution of mobile boarding passes. And Bagjourney API facilitates baggage tracking using a bag tag number or passenger surname. Yet, this functionality is available only if you have an agreement with a particular airline.
Direct hotel booking with PMSs and channel managers
Main users: Larger OTAs, metasearch engines, niche OTAs, travel application providers
If you’re new to the world of hotel room distribution, spend five minutes to understand how the ecosystem works before diving deep into the APIs. We’ve made a video for that. If you know the basics, just skip our explainer.
How hospitality booking works (if you haven’t subscribed after the first video, now’s a great time to do it)
With that out of the way, let’s begin the next section, the name of which may sound a bit misleading because direct hotel booking is possible only if you connect to the hotel’s central reservation system. But the next step on the journey to being direct is channel management.
Direct connection via property management (PMS) and central reservation systems (CRS). A PMS is the main software environment for hotels. It usually includes reservation capabilities (CRS) and other modules that don’t work with distribution but help with internal hotel operations, like point-of-sale systems or front desk. As you may have guessed, direct connectivity via PMSs requires quite a lot of investment, because there are dozens of PMSs on the market and you may need integration with several of them if you want to have a large inventory.
More on how PMSs work
If you’re considering direct integration with hotels, check our article on Opera by Oracle PMS integration. It’s one of the largest PMS providers out there.
Connection via channel managers. Channel managers are systems that integrate with PMSs on one side and with online travel agencies or other distributors on the other. The main purpose of a channel manager is to allow hotels to distribute their properties across several channels (OTAs, TMCs, etc.), hence the name. As a travel distributor, you can connect with channel managers given that certain hotels want to distribute with you and advocate your integration. The largest channel managers may feature thousands of hotels. Considering the nature of these connections, it’s still almost direct integration as channel managers just pass the information without adding their commissions for bookings.
We won’t describe any direct integrations with PMSs, but let’s have a look at a couple of notable channel managers.
SiteConnect API by SiteMinder Channel Manager
SiteMinder is one of the largest channel management providers for hotels. It allows hoteliers to connect their properties to the leading OTAs and GDSs via the cloud interface, increase direct bookings, and analyze performance.
While their packages can be extremely useful for hotels that strive for market visibility, SiteMinder also has SiteConnect API that mostly addresses OTAs and other end-user providers.
Cloudbeds is another large player in the channel management market with about 20,000 hotels in its portfolio. Cloudbeds has a REST API that exchanges data on guests, reservations, and so on in JSON.
Besides, CloubBeds gives access to their APIs to application developers who integrate Cloudbeds software with third-party services.
Hotel booking APIs by aggregators: GDSs, connectivity providers, and switches
Main users: OTAs, metasearch engines, travel application providers
Read more here: Best Hotel Booking APIs
The second group of suppliers can be called aggregators. They collect data from many sources, including hotels, wholesalers (that we discuss below), and aggregators which can be generally broken down into two major groups.
Global Distribution Systems. While GDSs are more focused on air travel, they feature quite a lot of hotels since corporate travel management companies (TMCs) tend to stick with GDSs and it was a sound move to include hotel inventory as well. While GDSs generally have large hotel inventories, they may miss some segments that are of little interest to corporate travelers. Another drawback is that GDSs tend to have poor content, low-res images, and incomplete descriptions and amenity lists.
Connectivity providers and switches. Another major group of suppliers covers different types of aggregators that get data on hotel reservations, room availability, and other content across many different sources. Sometimes aggregators work directly with hotels; sometimes they connect to other middlemen. But usually, they have both. Going to aggregators is a smart move if you need a large inventory.
One of the subtypes of these aggregators is switches, the systems that in many ways are similar to channel managers. They connect to the hotel’s central reservation systems and reroute data from suppliers to distributors, allowing both to have a single point of contact, a switch. The main difference is that channel managers require you to agree to integration with a hotel directly, while switches can negotiate with you not involving hotels. Sometimes, the terms switch, aggregator, and connectivity provider are used interchangeably.
Hotel Aggregator API by MakCorps
MakCorps has been collecting information about hotel prices of different vendors since 2010. . Its Hotel API covers not only current rates but also reviews, ratings, and other data from over 200 OTAs including Booking.com, Agoda, Expedia, and Hotels.com. Besides that, MakCorps offers historical hotel pricing data which enables travel agencies, hotel chains, and other clients to understand buying patterns and other trends and adjust rates to secure a competitive advantage. . All data is received in XML format but MakCorps transfers it into JSON for customer convenience.
RateGain and Dhisco Switch
DHISCO Switch by RateGain is a global switch that enables the one-to-many distribution of hotel rooms connecting main OTAs, travel agencies, metasearch engines, and GDSs with hotel chains. Currently, the service has access to 125,000 properties from over 1,000 channels.
DerbySoft: connectivity APIs for booking and content
DerbySoft is a connectivity provider that acts as a single point of contact both for hotels and travel sellers. It maintains a network of 750 partners including
- large hotel groups (Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, Accor, and more), PMSs like Oracle Opera or TravelClick,
- destination management companies,
- bed banks,
- online travel agencies, and
- other distributors.
To initiate the connection process, choose businesses you want to link and complete the online form.
Wholesale hotel booking: APIs by bed banks
Main users: OTAs, metasearch engines, travel application providers
Bed banks (or wholesalers) are among the main sources to access hotel booking and content. Wholesalers purchase inventories in bulk and then resell them to distributors. This allows hotels to efficiently manage their revenues and fill up rooms, while bed banks get access to inventory at lower rates.
Hotelbeds is one of the largest accommodation, transfers, and activities distributors. Its API Suite covers more than 120 markets globally operating in about 185 countries. There are three main hotel-related APIs that Hotelbeds suggests, connecting to about 300,000 hotels worldwide.
Hotel Content API. This API returns both static and dynamic information. Static info includes hotel descriptions, pictures, addresses, etc. The dynamic part retrieves data that can be changed at any moment: availability details, prices, fees, etc.
Hotel Booking API. The API works in combination with the previous one enabling all aspects of the booking procedure, from requesting room availability to receiving booking lists and making cancellations.
Hotel Cache API. This API is aimed at providing massive amounts of data for travel packages or flex room searches. Thus, the API returns a specific snapshot of data captured at a given moment.
WebBeds API: JacTravel, Destinations of the World, and others
WebBeds is the second largest bed bank, boasting a portfolio of 430,000 hotels in over 16,000 destinations, not to mention thousands of transfer services, excursions, and attractions. It owns several smaller wholesalers including Lots of Hotels (LOH), FIT Ruums, Sunhotels, and Destination of the World (DOTW) as well as two niche brands:
- JacTravel DMC specializes in the UK, France, and key mainland European destinations; and
- UmrahHolidays International organizes religious travel to Saudi Arabia.
OTAs, tour operators, and other travel providers can tap into WebBeds inventory through their branded booking websites or API connectivity (contact them directly via an online form for more details.) Sunhotel has a separate XML API connecting to 368,000 properties in 120 countries.
Bonotel is a niche wholesale distributor that is solely targeted at luxury and boutique hotel rooms. Currently, Bonotel API accesses more than 2,600 travel suppliers globally that operate within the luxury segment and offer access to hotel content and data. To explore the API that Bonotel suggests, you should contact the supplier directly.
Travco XML API
Travco, one of the oldest hotel wholesalers, focuses on the European market and provides accommodation and ancillary bookings from over 12,000 hotels at over 1000 destinations. Their XML API gives access to hotel properties (including hotels, resorts, and retreats) and travel ancillaries (like transfers, tours, and restaurants). Also, this API allows for displaying content in nine languages.
HPro Travel (HotelsPro)
HPro Travel (formerly HotelsPro) is a bed bank with a focus on tour operators and travel agencies, selling properties of different sizes and types, including resorts and luxury hotels. You can also source travel ancillaries. It provides access to over 1,000,000 hotels across 70,000 destinations. Other available inventory types include car rentals, transfers, tours, attractions, and events.
The bed bank offers hotel APIs that support REST and JSON.
Coral API allows you to get up-to-date inventory and hotel information, cache results, check availability, book rooms, and cancel reservations.
Cosmos API returns hotel static data — information on properties and locations, images, room, and meal types, and more.
You’ll find a detailed description of these wholesalers in our dedicated article.
Partner rooms reservations: APIs by Expedia and Booking.com
Main users: small OTAs, non-hospitality travel providers, channel managers, property management systems
The final option to connect to multiple hotels is to partner with big OTAs and use their inventory. Yet, you need to have a significant volume of bookings to be vetted by large players since they are typically not interested in integrations with startups and small businesses.
There are two main players dictating the rules of the OTA market: Booking Holdings (Booking.com, Kayak, Momondo, etc.) and Expedia (Expedia.com, Hotel.com, Trivago, etc.) If you mostly look at hotel booking, it’s worth working with both. Not all APIs are publicly available and you’ll have to become their partner to fully leverage their capacities.
The two giants have their partnership networks. Expedia Partner Central is aimed at hotels and Expedia Partner Solutions at online travel agencies and other travel software providers. Booking.com supports APIs for smaller travel agencies and channel managers.
Expedia Partner Central
Expedia APIs are built with the idea of streamlining property updates both for hotels and ultimately Expedia end users.
Availability and Rates API. This set of APIs helps hotels automate booking by instantly updating property rates on all Expedia points, changing availability, and sending notifications as soon as someone reserves a room through the Expedia network. Note that it can’t be used alone: You must also integrate either the Booking Notification API or Booking Retrieval/Confirmation set of APIs to automatically send updates to your CRS or PMS.
All other APIs can’t be integrated without Availability and Rate API and Booking Notification or the Booking Retrieval/Confirmation APIs in place. This rule applies to
- Product API that allows you to retrieve property-level information, read, edit, and create room types, rate plans, and amenities;
- Deposit API for reading, creating, updating, and removing a property’s deposit policy;
- Image API for adding and deleting property images as well as editing metadata; and
- Property API to add and update content about property attributes, policies, and fees.
There is also a standalone Compliance API that supplies data about regulations in the region where properties are listed.
Expedia Rapid API
The Expedia Partner Solutions API named Rapid is created for online travel agencies that want to incorporate hotel booking support into their products. The Rapid API will allow for:
- receiving geographic definitions and property mappings for over 600,000 regions;
- retrieving property IDs and content;
- getting live rates and availability for over 700,000 properties globally; and
- booking and booking management (changing and canceling reservations).
You can also access the Vrbo (formerly HomeAway) inventory, which is an alternative travel OTA that connects travelers with homeowners in about 190 countries. Over 600,000 Vrbo single-room vacation rentals are exposed via Rapid API.
(Not to be outdone, another leading player in the vacation rental market, Airbnb, provides an API for owners of single properties who want to employ Airbnb booking capacities.)
Additionally, there’s an affiliate program at Orbitz, which is a travel metasearch and aggregator belonging to Expedia. Their engine allows for sourcing about 260,000 bookable properties and over 400 airlines.
Booking.com provides two sets of services – for their affiliate partners and for channel managers. Currently, Booking.API for affiliates allows for retrieving and booking hotel rooms from the Booking inventory. You may use only accommodation data without booking capabilities, sending visitors to Booking.com. If you want to process bookings on your side, you must be PCI-compliant.
Booking Connectivity APIs are an entirely different beast. This set of APIs is created for channel managers and property management system providers. You may meet them in the video above. Basically, if you build channel manager software, these APIs are a must… given that you want to connect your clients to Booking.com. You may check their documentation. In brief, Connectivity supports
- rates and availability,
- promotions, and
- problem reporting.
You can read more about Booking, com APIs and other partnership solutions in our dedicated article.
Another OTA owned by Booking Holdings is Agoda. It’s worth contacting the Agoda team separately to understand how their supply differs from what Booking already offers.
Priceline focuses on OTAs and tech suppliers that help their customers find travel-related data. Currently, the Priceline Partner Solutions API allows for retrieving and booking:
- cars for rent,
- vacation packages, and
- travel insurance plans.
Owned by Booking Holdings, Priceline leverages a separate collection of travel deals which includes 980,000 properties and exclusive discounts. Learn more about how to start building an API connection on their website.
Hotel and room mapping APIs: GIATA and Gimmonix
Main users: OTAs and TMCs receiving hotel data from multiple sources
Read more here: Hotel Mapping Tools Explained
If you’re sourcing hotel data from multiple suppliers — for instance from two bed banks, or from a bed bank and a couple of aggregators — inevitably, some of the properties will duplicate as most suppliers have intersecting inventories. The problem is, different suppliers may have different naming conventions for hotel IDs and room types. And you don’t want your users to see the same property with slightly different room naming and prices in search results.
You have to solve the mapping problem, i.e. map and remove duplicates of the same hotels, rooms, and content coming from different sources. There are APIs and systems that can help you with this task.
GIATA is a hotel content management provider. Their solution to the mapping problem is creating so-called MultiCodes. GIATA has universal IDs that are mapped to different codes, geocodes, and addresses from over 500 suppliers, including bed banks, OTAs, operators, etc. MultiCodes data is available via XML API. They also have room-level mapping API that addresses descriptions and other hotel content.
Gimmonix Mapping.Works APIs
Mapping.Works is a set of APIs that help both property owners and OTAs map their inventories. Unlike GIATA, the provider employs ML-based text analysis to extract meaning from various inventory descriptions and also operates on two levels of mapping: hotel mapping and room mapping.
Car rental APIs: Rentalcars.com and CarTrawler
Main users: OTAs, travel applications providers, hotels, airlines
Read more here: Car Rental APIs
As you’ve noticed, multiple players on the market are bundling their services with car rentals. GDS systems and main OTAs already support car rentals.
Rentalcars.com owned by Booking Holdings is currently the largest provider in the sphere. If you look at embedding car rental support only into your website, it’s worth considering their services as Rentalcars works across about 60,000 locations in 163 countries.
Rentalcars offers two main options:
- put a customizable banner on your website, or
- become a Rentalcars Connect partner and then leverage available technology through the API.
The first option obviously isn’t an API and eventually, your users will be landing on Rentalcars.com to complete their reservation.
The second option, on the other hand, isn’t limited to a single API. The connect partners can utilize full-blown Rentalcars product integration and services including dynamic widgets, search panels, etc.
CarTrawler is a fully B2B service that connects over 2,000 travel agents, travel retailers (OTAs), and international airlines with local car rental suppliers. Currently, the company operates in 43,500 locations in 190 countries. You can learn about integration options by applying for a partnership agreement.
Also, there are car rental APIs by tech service providers, which you can study in more detail in the linked article.
Business travel management and planning APIs from SAP Concur
Main users: applications providers that target business travelers, OTAs
The main player in the business travel market is SAP Concur. The company offers a cloud-based travel management platform that helps enterprises manage trips, track travel expenses, book flight seats and hotel rooms, and rent cars.
SAP Concur API
Travel and itinerary support for business travelers. As business travelers book hotels and flights through providers’ apps, their travel data synchronizes with an SAP Concur traveler profile. For instance, if a user has a business trip flying United Airlines, he or she may connect a United MileagePlus profile to SAP Concur to make business trip reservations straight from the United Airlines Website. This way, all business trip data is sent directly to SAP Concur.
Expense management. All payments that business travelers make during their trips are automatically synchronized with an SAP Concur profile to track expenses or pay from a corporate bank account. Uber, for instance, has integrated Concur for these purposes.
Concur integration into the Uber app. Image credit: Uber
All apps with SAP Concur API integration are featured in the dedicated App Center.
Tripit is a product by SAP Concur which doesn’t limit its target audience to business travelers only and aims at all types of users. The system consolidates a user’s travel data like hotel, flight, and restaurant confirmations and turns it into a neatly organized itinerary. Also, they provide weather data and points program information.
Tripit API works pretty much the same as the main SAP Concur API. For instance, it allows for embedding an “Add to Tripit” link on the travel booking confirmation page of your website or adding Tripit travel plans to a website or application, enabling users to configure itineraries through Tripit without leaving your platform.
Reviews and ratings: TripAdvisor Content API for social proof
Main users: OTAs, hotels, travel applications providers
We’ve covered the best UX practices in booking and reservations websites. One of the main points is that 70 percent of people look at about 20 reviews before they book travel or accommodation services online. This social proof is hard to achieve with your own reviews system if you are a hotel, for instance, or another property provider. But TripAdvisor is a trusted source containing over a billion reviews and opinions.
Tripadvisor’s Content API allows businesses to incorporate reviews, opinions, and other data that the service collects from its users. The platform works with accommodations, restaurants, and attractions providing the following types of content about different locations (hotels, restaurants, attractions, and points of interest) through their API:
- location details (name, address, and rating),
- location photos (up to 5 high-quality images),
- location reviews (up to 5 most recent reviews),
- location search (up to 10 locations found by the given query), and
- nearby location search (up to 10 locations found near the given latitude/longitude).
TripAdvisor supports 29 languages and covers over 8 million locations globally.
Things-to-do APIs: tours, attractions, experiences, and restaurants
Main users: OTAs, local travel providers, travel applications providers
Like hotels, tours-and attractions (T&A) supply is broad. There are OTAs and niche companies that specialize in connecting travel agents with suppliers, suggesting interfaces, APIs, or both options to configure and source tours. On top of that, these services let you configure custom travel packages that include T&A, accommodation, and even car rentals. To get more information on tours and attractions APIs, check out our comprehensive article on the topic.
There are two main sources for finding attractions and things to do for your customers. These are
- local services like London Theatre API, and
- larger vendors that aggregate and share data combined with ticket purchasing support.
Watch our video about the tours and attraction market
Bókun is a tourism reseller platform that partly operates as a marketplace where local travel providers and property owners connect with OTAs and agents. In addition, it provides channel management services. Bókun API allows travel agencies to
- get a list of activities;
- check availability, capacity, and pricing for an activity;
- book activities;
- edit booking details; and
- cancel bookings.
This set of features enables configuring custom travel packages via the API interface.
TrekkSoft focuses solely on tours and activities. The company provides graphical interfaces for local T&A companies and tourism offices. TrekkSoft API can be configured to supply resellers with all available T&A, including booking capacities.
Agent API allows OTAs and other resellers to query products by tour operators, check their availability and pricing, and make bookings and cancellations.
Supplier API is designed for tour operators who sell their products via the Rezdy platform. It lets them manage their inventory and booking capabilities.
RezdyConnect API serves external suppliers who have their own booking platforms. The API facilitates reselling their products via Rezdy channels. It pulls availability and pricing from a supplier’s system and returns bookings and cancellations.
While Rezgo may look like a common T&A channel management solution, it provides an open-source frontend booking engine fueled by Rezgo API. It supports both XML and JSON formats and is dedicated to building T&A booking solutions that don’t exceed 4,000 requests per hour.
Ticketmaster is the largest events booking provider in the market. It covers concerts, festivals, plays, and sports across the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Ireland, other European countries, and more. The service claims to reach about 230,000 events worldwide. Back in 2016, it released multiple APIs to let third parties embed the Ticketmaster events search and booking support into their products. There are two main Ticketmaster APIs.
Discovery API is aimed solely at an information search. You will be able to source events, filter them by location, and type, and retrieve images. There’s also International Discovery API for European events. It doesn’t work for the UK, Ireland, the US, and Canada.
Partner API allows your customers to directly book and buy tickets from your resource. But unlike Discovery API, it’s not open: You have to enroll in the Ticketmaster affiliate program to use it.
Ingresso TicketSwitch API
Ingresso platform provides information on events and seating availability from over 60 global distributors and supports ticket booking and purchasing. Ingresso sources data and sends reservations directly through venue ticketing systems, which ensures real-time updates. Its API is used by Amazon Tickets.
Viator is a T&A agency acquired by Tripadvisor in 2014. The OTA accesses over 300,000 experiences around the world, including unconventional ones (e.g. “real Prague, a 3-hour tour to see the reverse side of the city”).
Its Affiliate API allows you to merchandise Viator inventory, complementing your offerings with tours and activities. However, Viator will handle customer service and transactions. If you want to preserve more control over the booking process, opt for their Merchant API (the implementation takes up to 3 months while Affiliate API can be integrated within 1-4 weeks).
GetYourGuide is another T&A OTA that accesses about 33,000 activities in more than 2,500 destinations. GetYourGuide’s power side is linking specific attractions and activities with locally related ones. For instance, Manhattan cruises will be connected with Empire State Building visits. If you’re a local travel provider, the service requires you to have live-streaming T&A availability. GetYourGuide API is available to partners only.
Klook is a T&A provider that mostly focuses on Asian tours with destinations ranging from China and Shanghai to Japan and Singapore. The company suggests OTAs enroll in an affiliate program and get access to the T&A database via either a SaaS solution or an API.
Musement is a wide-range T&A platform that combines attractions, tours, nightlife activities, local food and wine places, sports, and music events. The company’s partners can integrate with a REST API to sell products from the Musement catalog containing more than 5 thousand deals in 300 cities in 60 countries around the world.
Tiqets is an agency that focuses on the digital distribution of museum and attraction tickets. It offers OTAs, travel site owners, and other travel distributors two types of REST/JSON APIs for accessing and booking 4,500 products and 2,500 venues in 250 popular destinations across 50 countries.
The Tiqets API enables distributors to become mediators between end customers and ticket sellers. The Partner API is for those who want people to buy tickets right on their own platforms. After integration, you can retrieve general information on activities, events, and destinations, check availability, and book and cancel tickets.
OpenTable maintains access to over 50,000 restaurants worldwide. The main option for those who want to add table bookings to their services is to become OpenTable partners and use their API. It will allow you to source all OpenTable options, but users will still book through OpenTable.com. Once you reach over 100 monthly reservations as an affiliate, you will be able to leverage revenue-sharing opportunities. However, not all applicants are becoming partners. That’s why there’s an unofficial OpenTable API. It supports the same set of data and doesn’t require contacting OpenTable directly.
If the restaurant industry is your primary interest, check out our article on restaurant reservation APIs.
Public transportation: APIs to support the get-around experience
Main users: global and local travel application providers
Read more here: Public Transport APIs
Not all travelers rent cars. And with the recent trend of making cities more pedestrian-friendly, especially in Europe, the use of public transport is a big part of the travel experience. As we mentioned, Uber has its own API to incorporate the “request the ride” function into third-party applications. Today the API is used in such familiar products as Google Maps, Transit App, and TripAdvisor.
What about public transport APIs? (Check the link for more detail.) There are multiple options to consider.
Embedding Google Maps is quite common today. The Google APIs are open, well-documented, and widely used across industries. However, Google also provides APIs for tracking public transport routes and schedules.
General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS). The API is used by both application providers and – very importantly – transit agencies that share public transport data to let users instantly configure their get-around experience. This API sends static-only data, which means users can see schedules and routes, but can’t track disruptions.
GTFS Realtime. As the name clearly states, this extension to the main service aims at providing real-time data coming from transit agencies about delays and schedule changes.
While this sounds great, you can’t expect it to work in the lion’s share of locations around the world. So, it’s worth considering local alternatives if you build apps and want to deliver extra value with real-time public transport updates.
Local APIs from owners and consortiums
You can expect to find decent APIs from companies operating in your target regions. While the quality and standards alignment of these APIs vary, they can provide real-time updates and even additional information like the availability of car sharing or bikes near a railway station. Some examples of these are APIs from Dutch Railways and French National Railways, which update information about disruptions and engineering work in real time.
Sometimes the APIs are born as a result of a consortium of data owners and reusers. One such example is OpenTripPlanner, the API providing an in-depth understanding of city transportation.
How to choose the right travel API
We’ve covered just the tip of the available travel API iceberg to provide you with basic information on the integration capabilities that the travel community shares. So, regardless of whether you use one of the products mentioned above or look for something specific, there are general recommendations for choosing a suitable API for your travel business.
Look at popularity. ProgrammableWeb suggests looking at Google Trends to understand how popular the product is. Popularity isn’t only a proof of quality but also the foundation for a community that builds around a product. The more developers use the API, the more pitfalls your team will be able to resolve through communication with fellow engineers. Another good sign is a dedicated forum letting developers discuss issues there.
Check API marketplaces. The travel API market is already a large one, and there are dedicated marketplaces emerging. For instance, Yappes, one such platform, provides an interface to search for and evaluate popular APIs. Currently, it has around 60 travel APIs, both public and private. According to Rajagopal Somasundaram, CTO and co-founder at Yappes, the platform has the potential to become “the largest aggregator of the Travel APIs and a platform which provides seamless Discovery and Distribution of Travel related APIs. This will be achieved by providing API Discovery, API Creation & Hosting, API Distribution, and Deal Rooms (License/Price/Terms&Conditions Negotiations)”.
Evaluate documentation. Look for elaborate documentation with FAQs. Some providers don’t showcase the documentation upfront, requiring additional contracts. If the documentation is not public, make sure that you’ll be able to play with a demo. Expedia, for instance, allows you to try its public APIs right in the documentation section.
Check for standards compliance. Even though an API may provide a great feature list and functionality, ensure that your developers have checked the main REST and SOAP standards compliance.
Consider customization. How customizable is the API or a set of them? Must you use the entire bundle or you can choose specific data records that you want to retrieve? FlightStats, Sabre, and Amadeus APIs are well-recognized for their customization potential.
Notice limitations. These may be regional, language, or partnership-related limitations. Most owners provide this information, asking you to contact their support teams or describing what kinds of limitations are there.
Consider additional APIs for specific tasks. Don’t settle for conventional API services only. Valentin Dombrovsky from Travelabs recommends “being always on the outlook for opportunities on the market – sometimes 3rd party APIs and solutions can help in solving the problems that you have tried to solve yourself for a long time. For instance, there are companies like Sift Science or Spreedly tacking quite specific needs for fraud prevention and smooth payments. Sometimes you can find solutions for your part of the industry like Mapping.Works for those who deal with multiple suppliers of hotel inventory or AirGateway for those who need a solution to work with IATA’s NDC protocol.”
As the world and the travel industry grow more connected application programming interfaces appear. The right approach to working with them defines whether you source the right data and eventually deliver enough value to your customers.
Interested in travel APIs? Check our other pieces on the topic: